Q: My family loves fresh pasta and we go to The Hill every Saturday night to satisfy our craving. I hear that fresh pasta is easy to make at home. Do you have a beginner’s recipe that I can try?
A: I just spent three weeks back-packing across Northern Italy, and I found the ‘Ravioli of Venice’ to die for!
Walking the streets of Venice, I was constantly reminded of Marco Polo, who is said to have introduced spaghetti to Italy from Asia. I found that each region in Italy may have the same type of pasta but under different names. All pasta, whether egg-based or dry, can be classified into one of three classical preparations: cooked pasta served with a sauce or condiment, pasta in broth or soup and baked pastas.
One of my favorites (and one of the easiest to make) is the ravioli, believed to have been created in Venice, Italy, in the 14th century with blanched fresh herbs, mixed with egg and fresh ricotta, and stuffed between two layers of fresh pasta. I searched the streets of Venice looking for the best ravioli, and just outside Piazza San Marco, I found a little restaurant called Trattoria Da Gianni. With fresh fish and pasta made daily, I knew that this was the place to be.
Ingredients (makes 24 ravioli):
1 lb. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
½ c Parmesan cheese
3 T mascarpone cheese
4 T fresh herbs, chopped (I use basil, oregano and spinach)
3 T olive oil
1 T salt
4 T fresh herbs
DIRECTIONS: In a bowl, add the flour and make a hole in it so it looks like a volcano. Crack the three eggs into the center and add the salt. As you work your way around the bowl, incorporate the flour and egg together until it forms a ball.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it to finish incorporating the flour and eggs. When complete, wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in your refrigerator for an hour. This will give the gluten in the dough time to relax so you will not have tough pasta.
While dough is resting, blend all ingredients together for the filling. Set aside.
Remove the dough and cut into three equal pieces. If you have a pasta machine, roll out the dough into long, thin sheets. I prefer to do it the traditional way using a rolling pin. Be sure to roll the dough out very thin. You should end up with a sheet of dough that is approximately 8 inches across and 20 to 24 inches long. Starting at one end across the middle, place a teaspoon of filing every inch and work your way across the sheet of pasta. You should be able to place two fingers between each spoon of filling.
Fold the pasta sheet in half, covering the balls of filling. Using your fingers, press the dough together around each of the balls of filling to remove any excess air. Using a knife, cut small squares around the filling with about a finger’s width on the side. You can use a fork dredged in flour to mark the edge each. This will give it a finished look.
COOKING: Blanch the pasta in boiling, salted water for about three minutes. Remove from water and let dry over paper towels. Heat oil in sauté pan and sauté cooked pasta until they begin to brown. Remove from heat and add fresh herbs. Toss and plate. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Nutritional facts (4 to 5 ravioli):
11 g fat
31 g carbs
14 g protein
Chef John Johnson is River City Casino executive chef. Do you have a recipe request for Chef John? Email him at John.Johnson@rivercity.com.